A Brief History Of Tencent Holdings And Its Rise To The Blockchain Era
Probably one of China’s most broad hi-tech companies in terms of diversification, Tencent Holdings Ltd. is likely behind online content, services, and applications you might have just used without realizing it.
From top-shelf videogames and entertainment media to payment apps and social platforms Tencent’s sleeve is full of surprises, especially for those never heard of the company.
My spotlight in this article is not aiming at promoting Tencent in any case, but rather enlightening why an international tech-company of Tencent’s magnitude is betting on distributed ledger technology, digital assets, and virtual economies.
In addition, I’ll be explaining how Tencent does it and how it plans to capitalize on blockchain, while at the same time I’ll try to posit my view as to why Tencent’s move is not to be mistaken for identical investments in blockchain by the likes of Microsoft, Alibaba, and Google.
Tencent In A Nutshell
Started in 1998, Tencent Holdings Ltd. had the ease of being one of the first internet-only focused companies in China. Whether through acquisitions and mergers, or its own subsidiaries, Tencent owns an indescribable amount of internet service providers, social media platforms, every-day use apps, and entertainment platforms that tend to grow into leading projects in each space.
Take its videogames division for example, which not only makes Tencent the largest videogame company on the globe, but also the platform that brought us titles such as Call Of Duty, League Of Legends, and Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG), to mention a few.
To demonstrate the scale of Tencent’s impact in the global videogame industry, I’ll drop this list as found on Wiki:
- Full ownership of Riot Games, the American developers of League of Legends.
- Full ownership of Norwegian publisher Funcom.
- Full ownership of Swedish developer Sharkmob, founded in 2017 by ex-Ubisoft developers and fully acquired by Tencent in 2019.
- 80% ownership in the New Zealand company Grinding Gear Games, the developers of the game Path of Exile.
- Approximately 84% ownership in Finnish mobile game developer Supercell, makers of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale.
- 40% ownership of American developers Epic Games, the developer of popular online game Fortnite.
- 20% ownership of Japanese publisher and developer Marvelous.
- 17.66% ownership of South Korean mobile developer Netmarble.
- Approximately 15% ownership of American mobile game developer Glu Mobile.
- 13.54% ownership of South Korean company Kakao, the parent company of South Korean publisher Kakao Games.
- 9% ownership in UK developer Frontier Developments.
- 5% ownership of American holding company Activision Blizzard, the parent company of Activision, Blizzard and King.
- 5% ownership of Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive.
- 5% ownership in France’s Ubisoft, purchased from Vivendi following Vivendi’s failed attempt to buy out Ubisoft in March 2018.
- 1.5% ownership of South Korean company Bluehole, the publisher of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
- Majority ownership in Switzerland-based mobile game developer Miniclip.
- Capital Investment in Japanese developer PlatinumGames.
- Minority share in German developer Yager Development.
There is definitely a decent chance you’ve played some of the games mentioned without realizing Tencent was behind each respective case, but that’s barely what makes Tencent an international internet conglomerate.
Put aside international markets, and Tencent is undeniably the largest Chinese company on a domestic level, both in terms of capital and industry diversification.
In 2014, Tencent acquired a 15% stake JD.com Inc., a domestic e-commerce giant, simply by handing over some cash in addition to its native e-commerce businesses Paipai, its microblogging platform QQ Wanggou and a stake in Yixun to the later, all in an attempt to establish a stronger competitor to Alibaba Group’s internet monopoly at that time.
Did it work? As of Q2 2020, Pony Ma, one of Tencent’s initial founders, has stepped over Alibaba’s Jack Ma, to become China’s richest individual. You do the math.
The Chinese hi-tech behemoth has its own twin-skyscrapers called Tencent Bihai Mansion which is one of the most iconic architectural pieces in Shanghai’s economic heart. In addition, an unmanned shop comprised of robots, AI, and IoT is also part of Tencent’s real estate arsenal.
Now, when it comes to the digital realm, Tencent owns China’s most successful messaging and payments app WeChat which is used by hundreds of millions of customers every single day.
In high economic zones such as Shenzhen and Shanghai, even beggars wear a label stamped with their WeChat QR code in order to accept donations from trespassers and get a meal, unlike western beggars who use jars and hats to collect charity.
WeChat is practically a faster and simpler version of Instagram, Facebook, and your banking app combined. WeBank, Tencent’s latest fintech venture is one of the largest online-only banks in mainland China, one that obviously works in harmony with WeChat’s and its payment processes.
To wrap things up, besides e-commerce, micropayments, and gaming, Tencent is heavily invested and even has its own R&D department where everything between AI, robotics, IoT, Blockchain, unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomous electric vehicles, and more exotic tech is being researched and developed as you read this.
Blockchain Adoption In Asia
If you’re riding with Cryptos.com for quite some time, it should come as natural China is leading the global blockchain revolution and on a governmental scale.
While China’s focus is currently solely targeting blockchain as a registry and file management architecture, and not its by-products such as cryptocurrencies, the red and gold country managed to foresee the fruits distributed ledger technology will offer to autonomous societies such as the one China managed to build from scratch over a period of a couple of decades.
For the Chinese government, blockchain technology is not just a subject of speculations, debates, and regulatory affairs, but rather a national strategy where in-house companies, government agencies, and even individuals are encouraged and enforced to join the technological shift that’s undergoing on a global level.
Considering some of the most advanced blockchain-based monetary settlements services are developed in China, or by Chinese companies, one could say that China is an Eden for blockchain technologists who are not focused on cryptos.
The People’s Republic Of China has been secretly working on a central bank digital currency labeled DC/EP (digital currency / electronic payments) for over six years now, while it only announced the launch of the long-awaited CBDC last year.
China’s plan is to use domestic hi-tech companies instead of blockchain-only companies as the developers and distributors of its national digital currency. Of course, Tencent couldn’t be left behind, and the company is already testing beta versions of China’s blockchain-based digital currency in Shenzhen.
Read More: AliPay, Tencent, and Union Pay among the first to receive China’s gov-backed cryptocurrency
From one standpoint, WeChat is already what most monetary services providers aim to achieve, with the difference that it uses a closed private network to store, manage, and distribute financial information and process payments.
Earlier this year, China has launched the Blockchain Service Network (BSN) where small and medium cap companies can deploy their own smart-contracts, issue their tokens, and plan STOs (security token offerings).
Tencent alone had filed over some 700 patents subjecting the term blockchain within them during the last year. A recent publication snatched from Chinese media outlet Egsea suggests that Tencent did not stop there, with patents filed this year attributing to a couple of hundred filings mentioning blockchain, among other filings carrying Cloud, AI, and IoT patents.
In addition, Tencent revealed its investment plan for the near future, where more than $70 billion worth of USD will be spread across the above sectors, again, with blockchain being the company’s main priority, following the state’s trail.
Tencent’s plan is far from creating its own blockchain or virtual currency. Instead, the internet titan aims at paralleling with the governments’ needs and vision, in an attempt to stay on top of the chain.
Following the company’s press releases, one can notice Tencent’s angle towards understanding blockchain capabilities, creating tailored solutions, and providing clean-cut documentation to regulators.
Unlike western internet giants that still struggle to grasp blockchain, most likely due to their conviction blockchain is the exact same thing as Bitcoin or necessarily related to cryptocurrencies, Tencent doesn’t sweat over alternative digital economic systems, being one of the leaders in the sector even without blockchain.
In opposition, Tencent envisions autonomous economies, smart-cities, and machine-to-machine payments, and it is mature enough to realize that particular future can be only achieved by combining edge industries including but not limited to blockchain, IoT, and AI.
Did you already know Tencent prior to reading this article? What’s your take on Tencent’s commitment to blockchain technology and what’s missing between western companies and their blockchain-powered future counterparts? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or feel free to hit me on Twitter.